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Authors: Richard Laymon

No Sanctuary (6 page)

BOOK: No Sanctuary
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Rick had seen opportunities to sneak a couple of slugs after dinner tonight when Bert left camp to gather firewood. But he’d resisted the urge, knowing that she would smell it on his breath later when they made love.

I should’ve brought vodka instead of bourbon, Rick thought. Hell, she would’ve smelled that, too. Its odor is faint compared to bourbon, but distinctive.

He thought about the bottle. It was near the bottom of his pack.

They had left their packs outside the tent, resting atop slabs of rock on the other side of the campsite and covered with ponchos.

Not only was his bourbon out there, but so was his revolver. A lot of good the gun would do them some forty feet from the tent, but Rick didn’t want Bert to know about that, either. The gun was a double-whammy; she hated firearms in general, and Rick bringing one on the camping trip would probably be seen as an act of cowardice.

If I’d had a gun the last time ...

Maybe I should’ve told Bert the whole truth this morning. Giving her that sanitized version probably just made me look yellow—like I was a kid back when it happened, scared of my own shadow.

Rick had never told the whole truth about that camping trip to anyone.

 

When they first came upon the lake, Rick had wanted to keep moving. It was a deep shade of blue, itself beautiful, but trapped in a landscape of such desolation that Rick felt the skin crawl on the back of his neck in spite of the heavy sun.

Steep canyon walls loomed over the lake on three sides. High up were gray stretches of glacier shaded by overhangs so that they probably never melted completely, year after year. There were a few scraggly patches of foliage on the rock walls, trees stunted and twisted into grotesque shapes. Otherwise, the slopes were bleached tumbles of broken granite.

The trail down from Windover Pass led to a small oasis that looked alien in the midst of the otherwise bleak surroundings. The oasis, a shady clearing near the lake shore, had a campsite.

A nice campsite, probably added onto over the years by many people who had stopped there after the exhausting trek down from the pass. There was a stone fireplace with a heavy steel grill that must’ve been brought in by mule. Surrounding the fireplace were several flat-topped rocks that could be used as either seats or tables. Here and there were walls of stone, no doubt constructed to hold back the winds that must rip through the canyon at night. The site even had a few flat areas, mostly near walls, that looked as if they had been carefully cleared of rocks and leveled.

Dad swung his backpack to the ground and stretched. The armpits of his tan shirt were dark with sweat. “Fantastic, huh?” he asked.

“I don’t like it,” Rick said.

“What’s not to like?” Dad asked.

“This place gives me the creeps.”

“It is a little ... barren,” Mom admitted. “They built those walls. The wind must be awful.”

“Well, folks, it might be a long trek to the next decent spot. Even if we move on, there’s no guarantee we’ll find any place better than this. Might even be worse.”

“It’s still pretty early in the day,” Mom said.

Dad showed her the topographies map, pointing out what lay ahead. Mom grimaced. “I guess we stay,” she said.

They set up camp, pitching the larger tent in the flat area between two of the stone walls, setting up Rick’s tent in a naturally sheltered area beside a high clump of rock. After arranging their gear, they rested for a while. Dad sat on a rock near the shore and smoked a corncob pipe. Mom sat cross-legged under a tree and read, and Rick lay down inside his tent. The tent was hot in spite of the shade, but he liked being enclosed, hidden away from the bleak landscape.

Later, Dad suggested that they take a hike to “explore the environs.”

Rick wanted no part of the environs. “Let’s not and say we did,” he suggested.

“Stay if you want,” Dad told him. “We probably won’t be gone more than an hour.”

“Mom, are you going, too?”

She crawled out of the bigger tent, stood up and nodded. She had changed into a tube top that wrapped her breasts and left her midriff bare, and cut-off jeans so short that the ends of the front pockets hung out below the frayed leg holes. She had abandoned her hiking boots for a pair of ragged tennis shoes. “You want to come,” she asked, “don’t you?”

Rick certainly did not want to stay by himself. “Sure,” he said.

They started out, Dad leading the way. It soon became clear that his plan was to hike entirely around the lake. Though the lake was not large, maybe a couple of hundred yards from one end to the other, the shoreline trail petered out on the other side of a rushing stream just beyond camp. After that, the lake was bordered by rocks: tilted pale slabs, chunks the size of cars, piles of smaller blocks, some that wobbled or slid underfoot.

In spite of the rough terrain, the going wasn’t difficult. Rick felt amazingly light and springy in his sneakers and without the burden of his pack. He leaped from rock to rock, strode easily across slanted sheets of granite, hopped over crevices.

Mom, just ahead of him, sometimes looked back to see how he was doing.

He watched her feet, and stepped where she stepped. Now and then, his gaze wandered higher. Her slender legs looked dusky through his sunglasses. Her shorts were cut so high in the rear that he could see the creases where her buttocks joined the backs of her thighs. Isn’t she wearing panties? he wondered. He felt himself getting hard, and guilt swarmed through him.

She’s my mother, he warned himself.

Not really. His real mother had left Dad when Rick was six. Two years later, Dad married Julie.

That doesn’t mean you can get the hots for her, Rick thought.

But sometimes he did. He just couldn’t help it.

He looked away from her. He watched the rocks in front of his feet.

Soon, however, his eyes found their way back to her. He stared at the faded seat of her shorts, at the way the curves under her rear pockets took turns rising and falling with the movements of her firm rump as she walked. He stared at the exposed crescents of her buttocks. There was little more than a narrow strip of denim passing between her legs. If she got high enough above him, maybe he would be able to see up inside the shorts and—

Rick yelped with surprise as his foot came down. Rock was supposed to be there, but wasn’t. He glanced down. Saw his shoe and jeaned shin drop into a crevice. Tried too late to push out with his other foot. Fell forward. Shrieked out his pain as the bones snapped.

Mum threw her arms around him, catching him in time to prevent the bones from ripping through muscle and skin. Then Dad was there. They eased his leg out of the fissure and lowered him onto the rock.

They both knelt over him. Dad, who never seemed to lose his calm, had a frantic look in his eyes. Mom’s face was twisted with fear. “Are you okay?” she asked. “It’s not broken, is it?”

Rick, teeth clenched in pain, nodded.

“Let’s get those jeans off,” Dad said.

As Mom unfastened his jeans, Rick noticed that her tube top was askew. It must’ve been pulled when she stopped his fall. On one side, a smooth half-moon of dark skin showed above the fabric hugging her breast.

He was in too much pain for the sight to arouse him.

But he remembered where he had been looking when he stepped into the crack.

He shouldn’t have been looking there. It was dirty of him, even though she wasn’t his real mother. The fall had been a punishment.

“I ruined everything,” he muttered.

“Could happen to anyone,” Dad said, and pulled the jeans down Rick’s legs. His left leg, below the knee, looked swollen and slightly bent. Dad ran his hand along it. “There’s a break, all right.”

“What’re we going to do?” Julie asked.

That was when Rick stopped thinking of her as Mom. It didn’t seem quite so terrible to have gloated over a woman who was not Mom, just Julie.

“Hold his knee,” Dad said.

Julie clutched his knee with both hands, and Dad tugged sharply on his ankle. Rick flinched rigid as white-hot pain streaked up his body.

Dad fingered the shin again. “I think that set it. You okay?”

Rick nodded.

Dad stood up, looked around, apparently didn’t spot whatever he wanted, then crouched and pulled off Rick’s sneakers. Following his instructions, Julie pressed the soles of the shoes flat against both sides of Rick’s shin. A little more of her nipple was showing. Rick forced himself not to look at it. He watched Dad instead. Soon, the shoes were strapped tightly into place with two belts.

“That ought to hold it,” Dad said.

They helped Rick up. Julie suggested they support him under each arm and walk him back to camp, but Dad said that it would be easier, and less risky, if he carried Rick piggyback.

“You might hurt yourself,” Julie said.

“You kidding? The man of iron?”

Dad didn’t feel like a man of iron as he carried Rick over the rough terrain. He felt like oak, thick and solid and resilient. He wasn’t even breathing heavily by the time they reached their campsite.

Instead of putting Rick down, he waded into the lake.

“What’re you doing?”

“I want you to soak that leg for a while. The cold’ll keep the swelling down.”

“Do I have to?”

Dad crouched. The icy water soaked through the seat of Rick’s cotton underpants, shocking his anus and biting into his genitals. Then the water numbed his legs. Julie, behind him, clutched him under the armpits.

“Okay, I’ve got you,” she said.

Releasing his father, he eased backward against Julie. She lowered him deeper. Dad let go of his legs, then moved around to where Julie was. Together, they guided him closer to the shore. They found a flat rock for him to sit on.

Both legs were still submerged below the knees, but the agony was gone. Rick felt as if his balls had been released from a vice. He took a deep breath.

Dad and Julie both stood in front of him, thigh deep in the lake. Didn’t the water hurt them?

Julie had Rick’s jeans with the crotch at the nape of her neck and the legs draping her front.

“You should probably soak that leg a few times a day,” Dad said. He looked at Julie. “You make sure he does.”

“You’re going for help?” she asked.

“Don’t see any way out of it.”

“You’re going to leave us alone?” Rick was stunned.

“There’s no reason to worry. You’ve got plenty of food. Shouldn’t take me more than about two days to reach the ranger station. They’ll probably bring in a chopper.”

“God almighty,” Rick muttered.

“It won’t be so bad,” Julie said, and showed him a smile.

“Let him have some bourbon,” Dad told her. “That’ll help if the pain gets too bad. I’d better get a move on.”

Rick and Julie both tried to talk him into staying the night, but he argued that there were still several hours of daylight and he’d better get to the ranger station as fast as possible.

They left Rick.

Turning sideways on his tiny island of rock, he watched his father pack a few things in his rucksack, kiss Julie goodbye, wave, and start striding briskly up the trail toward Windover Pass.

That night, the wind woke Rick. It howled and shrieked through the canyon. It shook the tent in spite of the protective stone walls on either side. He was glad that Julie had moved his sleeping bag into her tent, but she seemed to be sleeping through the uproar. His leg throbbed. He began to weep. The pain was bad, but the fierce noises were worse. He felt as if their presence had somehow offended a monstrous thing that dwelt in the canyon; it hated intruders in its domain and wanted to crush them. Finally, unable to bear the terror, Rick shook Julie awake.

“Huh? What ... Jesus, what’s going on out there?”

“Just the wind,” Rick said, trying to keep his voice steady so she wouldn’t know he was crying.

“Sounds like the end of the world.”

“My leg hurts awfully bad,” he said.

“Maybe we should break out the booze. Do you think that’d be a good idea?”

“I guess so.”

“I could use some myself. What’s going on out there?”

Rick rubbed his eyes. He saw Julie sit up in the darkness. A moment later, light stung his eyes. She had turned on the dry-cell lantern hanging from a joint of the aluminum tent poles near her head.

She crawled out of her mummy bag. She was wearing a T-shirt, baggy gray sweatpants and wool socks. She put on her down parka. “Right back,” she said. On hands and knees, she made her way toward the front of the tent.

“Where are you going?”

“The bourbon’s in my pack.”

“Don’t go out there,” Rick said. There was a whine in his voice.

“I’d send you, but you’re gimped.” She opened the tent front and crawled away.

Braced up on his elbows, Rick stared at the shuddering flaps. He thought he heard a scream. Maybe it was only the wind.

Julie didn’t come back. The packs were only a few feet from the tent. Even if she had trouble finding the bottle, it shouldn’t take this long.

Suppose she never comes back!

He called out to her, but she didn’t answer.

It got her! Whatever it was out there shrieking like a demon, it got Julie and ripped her apart and next it would come after Rick!

The tent flaps whipped inward and a scream stuck in his throat as Julie crawled in, her hair a tangle and the bottle in her hand.

“Where were you!” he raged through his sobs.

“Hey, calm down. What’s the matter?”

“You didn’t come back! I yelled and ...”

“I was out there anyway so I took a pee. Calm down, for godsake.” She sat cross-legged beside him and combed fingers through his hair.

Slowly, he regained control. He sat up, keeping his splinted leg straight inside his mummy bag, bending his other at the knee and turning so he could face her.

“Better?” she asked.

Rick nodded.

She unscrewed the cap of the bottle, took a sip, and handed it to him. He had tried wine and beer a few times before, but never whiskey. He drank some and winced. It tasted like medicine and scorched his throat, but then it felt warm and nice in his stomach.

“Like it?” Julie asked.

BOOK: No Sanctuary
9.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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